Suicide bombings not jihad, say hard-line groups

Islamic hard-line groups joined the chorus of condemnation on Sunday against militants who used suicide bombings to wage jihad in the world's most populous Muslim country. However, the groups called for a dialog between them and other Muslim leaders, along with the government to discuss jihad, as they said the war on terror had tarnished their image.

At a seminar attended by leaders of the Indonesian Mujahiddin Assembly (MMI), Hisbuth Tahrir, the Islam Defender Front (FPI) and several other hard-line groups, they agreed that suicide bomb attacks could not be accepted as jihad. "It's because the attackers have committed suicide in Indonesia, which is not a conflict zone," MMI leader Abu Jibril argued.

The seminar specifically discussed the series of suicide bombings in the country, blamed widely on members of the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terror group.

According to Jibril, Muslims are allowed only to launch suicide attacks for self-defense. "The recent suicide bombings were out of the context of Islamic holy war because they (the attackers) attacked target instead of defending themselves from threats, such as aggression," he said.

The MMI was founded by extremist cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who was in April convicted of a being involved in the conspiracy that led to the 2002 bombings in Bali, which killed 202 people -- mostly Western tourists. Jibril has taken over the MMI's leadership as Ba'asyir, who also heads the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, Surakarta, Central Java, is serving a 30-month jail term in Jakarta's Cipinang prison. Police also accused Ba'asyir of leading Jamaah Islamiyah, but the court was not convinced. Similarly, Achmad Junaidi Ath-Thayibiy of the Hizbuth Tahrir said the recent terror attacks in the country by suicide bombers were haram (forbidden under Islam), and could not be considered as jihad.

Once again, he stressed that Indonesia was not a conflict zone. "The Koran sets a condition before Muslims can wage holy war and die as martyrs, namely it must be defensive, not offensive, in nature, and the target must be clear. "If the attackers target the U.S. and its allies as their enemies, they must not victimize women, children and other innocent people," Achmad told the seminar, which was also attended by former chairman of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PGI), Rev. Nathan Setiabudi.

Imams have also strongly condemned the suicide bombings as un-Islamic, saying the terrorists had misinterpreted Koranic verses on jihad to launch the attacks. Nahdlatul Ulama leader Hasyim Muzadi asked the government and Muslim leaders to sit down together to talk about the true concept of jihad in an effort to ensure the success of the national campaign against terror.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) ended a two-day national meeting here on Sunday with a decision to strengthen its stance against terrorism. "We are planning to facilitate a meeting of all religious groups, be they hard-line or moderate ones, to find a clear definition of jihad. Of course, our stance is clear that we are against terror because Indonesia is not a battle zone for jihad or suicide attacks," MUI deputy chairman Ma'ruf Amin, who was appointed to lead the antiterror task force, told The Jakarta Post. He said the MUI would reissue its 2003 fatwa that outlaws all acts of terror.

The council, however, criticized the security authorities for stigmatizing hard-line groups and a number of Islamic boarding schools. Last week, the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) said that as part of the fight against terrorism, it would infiltrate radical groups in order to destroy their organizations from within.

* Published by The Jakarta Post on December 5, 2005